Declan Lowney, whose many directing credits on Ted Lasso include the show’s sweepingly emotional finale, grew up in a rural part of Ireland, County Wexford, where no one thought much about a future in TV or movies. Until Uncle Tony came back home.
“I had an uncle who traveled a lot, Uncle Tony. He was a chef. And he came back to Wexford when I was about 10 or 11. And somebody had given him a Super 8 camera,” Lowney recalls. “And he set up the extra-miniature moviemakers’ society to make a vampire movie. So he cast family and friends to be actors, and some local drama people.”
Lowney continues: “There’s a big, very famous castle outside of Wexford, and he set it all there. He plays the vampire. He gets killed. They rip open his shirt, they use a lot of pig entrails — Tony loves a bit of gore. And he didn’t mind writhing around on the floor. And it was really, really gross and disgusting.
“And I wasn’t allowed to watch it. But I remember him screening it at the town hall, or this little hall he’d hired, and having a bedsheet hung up, and people were just cramming in there every night to watch, transfixed by this thing. I mean, it’s 1970 in Wexford. So people have never seen themselves on film, maybe. And so I just went, ‘Wow — I want to do something like that.'”
Pretty soon, Uncle Tony grew bored with the Super 8, and gave it to his 11-year-old nephew, Declan, who used it to make stop-motion animation films.
“There was no film school in those days. So I went straight from being a nerdy teenager in my attic to working in Irish TV as a trainee in film editing. And so film editing was where you got to see how stories are told and what the director needs to give the editor to bring the stuff to life,” Lowney recalls.
The let’s-put-on-a-show spirit of Lowney’s childhood still imbues his episodes of Ted Lasso, especially in the finale — when Ted Lasso’s players on AFC Richmond put on a musical number to say goodbye to their beloved coach, played by series co-creator Jason Sudeikis.
It’s just one of many surprising set pieces in a finale that also includes a final gathering of the Diamond Dogs, a stunning locker-room turnaround, a seemingly magical goal, hints at several potential spinoffs, and maybe — just maybe – Ted getting back together with his estranged wife.
Lowney shares the Ted Lasso team’s 2022 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy series, in addition to earning a 2021 nomination for directing. He’s nominated again for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for the Ted Lasso finale, “So Long, Farewell.”
How did it fit so much into one episode?
“It didn’t really fit in one episode, which is why that episode took 73 minutes,” he laughs. “Starting with Season 2, the episodes did get gradually longer and longer. But this one topped them all for length. The show is as long as it feels OK to keep people occupied.”
Ted Lasso hired Lowney in Season 1 in part because the creators needed someone who was familiar with both American and British television — and British and American comedy styles — for the story of a Kansas football coach hired to lead a British soccer team.
Declan Lowney on Staging a Sound of Music Number
Like many Irish creatives, Lowney followed his work across the Irish Sea to the United Kingdom. Lowney’s resume includes work with comedians from Eddie Izzard to Steve Coogan, as well as the UK’s Little Britain and Happiness. One of his first credits, however, was the Eurovision Song Contest. Did that help him with the big musical number in “So Long, Farewell,” named for the Sound of Music song the players perform?
“Things are always a joy to do when the people you don’t expect to be doing it are doing it. To imagine the Richmond AFC team performing ‘So Long, Farewell’ is a huge leap. But once you buy into that and see how good they are, it’s fantastic. I really loved doing it,” he says.
He especially enjoyed the camera choreography as it slowly becomes apparent that the guys are actually pretty good. One of Lowney’s favorite elements of directing is finding the “visual humor of where to put the camera,” he says.
“Sometimes I put the camera someplace, and someone says, ‘You know what might be funnier…’ and often that person is Jason,” Lowney says. “So there’s a guy helping to make you better at what you do, and making the show funnier by moving the camera few feet. And it’s amazing how that makes such a difference.”
It’s especially important in a show with so many characters.
“There’s a lot of scenes with like six or eight or even 10 character speaking, like in the locker room, having multiple eyelines, getting all those head turns and reactions,” Lowney says. “And I’m looking here, but now he looks over to that guy for two lines, and looks back there. So I like to get each of those eyelines establishing their own shot rather than play it all in one eyeline. I love to see both eyes.”
Do Ted Lasso and His Wife Michelle Get Back Together?
Blocking and camera position also play a big part in a significant hint dropped in the finale.
One of the major heartbreaks of Ted Lasso’s three seasons is Ted’s discovery that his wife Michelle (Andrea Anders) is dating their former marriage therapist, Dr. Jacob (Mike O’Gorman). But in the season finale, when Ted returns to Kansas, Dr. Jacob is nowhere in sight. Was Lowney trying to tell us something?
Yes. Lowney notes that both Michelle and her and Ted’s son Henry (Gus Turner) begin to seriously disconnect from Jacob during the big game.
“It’s the body language,” Lowney says. “Whenever we cut back to Ted’s house in Kansas, and you’ve got mom and Henry on the sofa, the doc comes in late… and then after a while he says a few things and they just don’t laugh. And you actually see Henry’s getting like, ‘I’ve had enough of this guy.’ You can feel it stripping or draining away on her, too.
“But the last time we cut back to the house, he’s now sat in the back at the bar, having a beer. It’s subtle, but… he’s deep in the background in the last shot. And that was kind of the clue to what was going to happen there.”
So Jacob is gone?
“He’s gone,” Lowney confirms.
In one of the final scenes of the finale, Ted shows up at his old house with his suitcase, and we see Henry welcome him home. It’s a suggestion that Ted and Michelle “are gonna end up back together,” Lowney says.
“I think there’s room. They’re gonna talk, that’s for sure. You know, he’s in therapy, he’s changed his thing. He’s come back home. There’s room for something to happen there,” the director adds.
Ted Lasso Spinoffs?
So have we seen the last of the Ted Lasso universe?
“I think there’s a bunch of things that happen in the finale that point toward potential spinoffs,” Lowney says. “I mean, clearly pitching Richmond Women’s AFC is a fantastic ideal couldn’t be more timely.”
He thinks there’s also a potential story about Roy (Brett Goldstein) taking over as the coach of AFC Richmond.
“The Beard looks like he’s gonna stay in the country. Now. He’s having a baby with James. So he could, you could back up Roy, with Nate. So there’s stuff there. Ted’s in Kansas coaching high school team. No one left a note in the desk saying here’s the future. But I think they laid down a lot of a lot of pointers for ways it could go.”
Main image: A scene from the Ted Lasso finale, directed by Declan Lowney.